Bar 20, as any Hopalong Cassidy fan knows, is the name of the ranch where Hoppy and his pals work when they’re not out righting wrongs and punishing evildoers (which seems to be just about never).
Bar 20 is also the name of the 1906 novel by Clarence E. Mulford that introduced a young redheaded cowboy with a limp, nicknamed "Hopalong" Cassidy, to the world.
Bar 20 the movie (from 1943) has nothing to do with the ranch, and the Hopalong it portrays has almost nothing in common with the Mulford character. And it should not be confused with the earlier Hoppy films Bar 20 Rides Again (1935), Cassidy of the Bar 20 (1938), Bar 20 Justice (1938), or the Mulford novels Bar 20 Days (1911), The Bar 20 Three (1921), or others bearing the same titles as earlier movies. Are you confused yet?
Don’t be. All you have to know is that this is one of five Hoppy films featuring both George Reeves and Robert Mitchum in supporting roles, and that makes it mighty dang interesting. It's especially interesting because it’s the only one in which Reeves fills the role of Hoppy’s easily-smitten young sidekick, and the only one (I think) in which both Reeves and Mitchum play good guys.
The Bar 20 boys meet Mitchum (in the dude suit).
The fun begins when Hoppy, Andy Clyde and Reeves chase off a gang of stage robbers - but not before the outlaws get away with ten thousand dollars worth of jewels and a wedding dress. The dress and jewels belong to the Sweet Young Thing of the picture, a girl who intends to marry rancher Robert Mitchum.
Hoppy and the gang just happen to be there because they’ve come to buy a bunch of prized purebred cattle from Sweet Young Thing’s ma. But that plan is bollixed up when Hoppy’s cattle money is stolen.
Quite naturally, Hoppy and his pards suspect Mitchum of being in cahoots with the outlaws, and Mitchum suspects the same of them. It’s obvious to the viewer that the real bad guy is someone else entirely, but our heroes keep on giving each other the stink eye until the exciting climax.
Hoppy hog-ties Victor Jory. Could he be the villain?
Meanwhile, the money and jewels change hands in a fast and furious manner, Reeves is easily smitten by Sweet Young Thing, and Mitchum proves himself easily duped.
SPOILER ALERT: Mitchum marries Sweet Young Thing.
Having just seen the ultra-tough, ultra-cool version of Mitchum in Thunder Road, I found this guy pretty bland, but it was still fun to see him interacting with Hoppy and Reeves. Reeves, meantime, reminded me - both in looks and in delivery - of a young Bruce Campbell, which ain’t a bad thing.
Reeves does his Bruce Campbell impression.
What the well-dressed Bar 20 Ranch hand wears.
Authentic Bar 20 Ranch furniture.
Find the full slate of Overlooked Films at SWEET FREEDOM.